By Kate Kelland LONDON (Reuters) - The global spread of bird flu and the number of viral strains currently circulating and causing infections have reached unprecedented levels, raising the risk of a potential human outbreak, according to disease experts. Multiple outbreaks have been reported in poultry farms and wild flocks across Europe, Africa and Asia in the past three months. While most involve strains that are currently low risk for human health, the sheer number of different types, and their presence in so many parts of the world at the same time, increases the risk of viruses mixing and mutating - and possibly jumping to people. "This is a fundamental change in the natural history of influenza viruses," Michael Osterholm, an infectious disease specialist at University of Minnesota, said of the proliferation of bird flu in terms of geography and strains - a situation he described as "unprecedented". Global health officials are worried another strain could make a jump into humans, like H5N1 did in the late 1990s. It has since caused hundreds of human infections and deaths, but has not acquired the ability to transmit easily from person to person. The greatest fear is that a deadly strain of avian flu could then mutate into a pandemic form that can be passed easily between people - something that has not yet been seen. While avian flu has been a prominent public health issue since the 1990s, ongoing outbreaks have never been so widely spread around the world - something infectious disease experts put down to greater resilience of strains currently circulating, rather than improved detection or reporting. While there would normally be around two or three bird flu strains recorded in birds at any one time, now there are at least half a dozen, including H5N1, H5N2, H5N8 and H7N8. The Organization for Animal Health (OIE) says the concurrent outbreaks in birds in recent months are "a global public health concern", and the World Health Organization's director-general warned this week the world "cannot afford to miss the early signals" of a possible human flu pandemic. The precise reasons for the unusually large number and sustained nature of bird outbreaks in recent months, and the proliferation of strains, is unclear - although such developments compound the global spreading process. Bird flu is usually spread through flocks through direct contact with an infected bird. But Osterholm said wild birds could be "shedding" more of the virus in droppings and other secretions, increasing infection risks. He added that there now appears to be "aerosol transmission from one infected barn to others, in some cases many miles away". Ian MacKay, a virologist at Australia's University of Queensland, said the current proliferation of strains means that "by definition, there is an increased risk" to humans. "You've got more exposures, to more farmers, more often, and in greater numbers, in more parts of the world - so there has to be an increased risk of spillover human cases," he told Reuters. BRITAIN TO BANGLADESH Nearly 40 countries have reported new outbreaks of highly pathogenic avian influenza in poultry or wild birds since November, according to the WHO. In China, H7N9 strains of bird flu have been infecting both birds and people, with the of human cases rising in recent weeks due to the peak of the flu season there. According to the WHO, more than 900 people have been infected with H7N9 bird flu since it emerged in early 2013. In birds, latest data from the OIE should that outbreaks of highly pathogenic avian flu have been detected in Britain, Italy, Kuwait and Bangladesh in the last few days alone. Russia's agriculture watchdog issued a statement describing the situation as "extremely tense" as it reported H5N8 flu outbreaks in another four regions. Hungarian farmers have had to cull 3 million birds, mostly geese and ducks. These come on top of epidemics across Europe and Asia which have been ongoing since late last year, leading to mass culling of poultry in many countries. Strains currently documented as circulating in birds include H5N8 in many parts of Europe as well as in Kuwait, Egypt and elsewhere, and H5N1 in Bangladesh and India. In Africa - which experts say is especially vulnerable to missing flu outbreak warning signs due to limited local government capacities and weak animal and human health services - H5N1 outbreaks have been reported in birds in Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Ghana, Niger, Nigeria and Togo. H5N8 has been detected in Tunisia and Egypt, and H7N1 in Algeria. The United States has, so far this year, largely escaped bird flu, but is on high alert after outbreaks of H5N2, a highly pathogenic bird flu, hit farms in 15 states in 2015 and led to the culling of more than 43 million poultry. David Nabarro, a former senior WHO official who has also served as U.N. system senior coordinator for avian and human influenza, says the situation is worrying. "For me the threat from avian influenza is the most serious (to public health), because you never know when," he told Reuters in Geneva. HIGHLY PATHOGENIC H5N1 H5N1 is under close surveillance by health authorities around the world. It has long been seen as one to watch, feared by infectious disease experts because of its pandemic potential if it were to mutate an acquire human-to-human transmission capability. A highly pathogenic virus, it jumped into humans in Hong Kong in 1997 and then re-emerged in 2003/2004, spreading from Asia to Europe and Africa. It has caused hundreds of infections and deaths in people and prompted the culling of hundreds of millions of poultry. Osterholm noted that some currently circulating H5 strains - including distant relatives of H5N1 - are showing significant capabilities for sustaining their spread between wild flocks and poultry, from region to region and farm to farm. "What we're learning about H5 is, that whether its H5N6, H5N8, H5N2 or H5N5, this is a very dangerous bird virus." Against that background, global health authorities and infectious disease experts want awareness, surveillance and vigilance stepped up. Wherever wild birds are found to be infected, they say, and wherever there are farms or smallholdings with affected poultry or aquatic bird flocks, regular, repeated and consistent testing of everyone and anyone who comes into contact is vital. "Influenza is a very tough beast because it changes all the time, so the ones we're tracking may not include one that suddenly emerges and takes hold," said MacKay. "Right now, it's hard to say whether we're doing enough (to keep on top of the threat). I guess that while it isn't taking off, we seem to be doing enough." (Additional reporting by Ed Stoddard in Johannesburg, Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva, Polina Devitt in Moscow and Sybille de La Hamaide in Paris; Editing by Pravin Char)
- Yahoo News
Republicans built up QAnon backer Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, but now are they afraid of what they created?
On the eve of President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration, freshman Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, the combative Georgia Republican known for her association with QAnon, was back on Twitter after a 12-hour suspension, and back to making waves.
Tam Dinh Pham of the Houston police department was part of the deadly mob that stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. A veteran Houston police officer is in trouble after attending the U.S. Capitol riots in Washington, D.C., then lying about it. Officer Tam Dinh Pham joined the deadly mob that stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.
- National Review
A Honduran migrant worker claimed that a migrant caravan was headed to the U.S. because incoming president Joe Biden would give migrants “100 days” to arrive at the country, in an interview with CNN. Biden may seek to enact a 100-day moratorium on deportations, however transition team officials have cautioned that the president-elect will not be able to overhaul immigration policy immediately upon taking office. Even so, a group of about 3,000 migrants from Honduras clashed with Guatemalan security forces on Sunday during their trek north to the U.S.-Mexico border. One migrant claimed the caravan was heading north because Biden had promised to help them, in a CNN interview later reposted by The Hill. Honduran migrant: President-elect Biden is "going to help all of us." pic.twitter.com/LkrVCsXcSb — The Hill (@thehill) January 18, 2021 “I just want patience and prayers that we can get to the U.S. because they [will] have a new president, Biden,” the migrant said. “He’s going to help all of us, he’s giving us 100 days to get to the U.S. and give us [legal] papers, so we can get a better life for our kids, and for our families.” Meanwhile, Guatemala deemed the attempted crossing illegal. “Guatemala’s message is loud and clear: These types of illegal mass movements will not be accepted, that’s why we are working together with the neighboring nations to address this as a regional issue,” the office of Guatemala’s president said in a statement on Sunday.
- The Week
President Trump has spent the last few days asking his friends, aides, and associates if they would like pardons — even those who are not facing any charges, a senior administration official told The Washington Post.In one case, the official said, Trump offered a pardon to a person who declined the chance at clemency, saying they weren't in any legal trouble and hadn't committed any crimes. "Trump's response was, 'Yeah, well, but you never know. They're going to come after us all. Maybe it's not a bad idea. Just let me know,'" the official recounted.Trump has taken a great interest in pardoning people, the Post reports, even calling families to personally let them know he granted a pardon. A person familiar with the matter told the Post that Trump was talked out of pardoning himself, family members, and controversial figures like Rudy Giuliani. An aide said there was also a brief discussion about possibly issuing pardons related to the Jan. 6 Capitol attack, but that idea went nowhere.While Trump has held a few ceremonial events in recent weeks, journalists have been kept away from the White House, largely because the president is "just not in a place where they would go well," one official told the Post. Trump is constantly flip-flopping, another administration official said, talking about his future but uncertain of where he will be. "He goes between, 'Well, I'm going to go to Florida and play golf, and life is honestly better,' and then in the next moment, it's like, 'But don't you think there's a chance to stay?'" the official said. Read more at The Washington Post.More stories from theweek.com 5 more scathing cartoons about Trump's 2nd impeachment Trump issues last-minute order attempting to free his appointees from ethics commitments Lindsey Graham seemed very pleased with Biden's secretary of state nominee
A boy who was killed in an alleged murder-suicide by his father has been identified as 9-year-old Pierce O’Loughlin. Family tragedy: The boy and his father, Stephen O'Loughlin, 49, were both found dead at their home on Scott Street, Marina District in San Francisco on Wednesday afternoon, SF Chronicle reports. The boy’s mother, Lesley Hu, asked authorities to check on her son after learning that he did not show up for school that day.
Secretary of State nominee Tony Blinken said at a confirmation hearing on Tuesday that it was “extraordinary how frightened Vladimir Putin seems to be of one man” — Alexey Navalny.Why it matters: Russia’s most prominent opposition figure, Navalny, returned to Russia on Sunday and was swiftly arrested. He spent the previous five months recovering in Germany after being poisoned with the nerve agent Novichok. His detention poses an early foreign policy challenge for the Biden administration.Be smart: sign up FREE for the most influential newsletter in America.What he’s saying: Blinken told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that Navalny served as a voice for millions of Russians, “and their voice needs to be heard in Russia.” * “The attempts to silence that voice by silencing Mr. Navalny is something that we strongly condemn,” Blinken added, noting that Navalny's arrest and other points of tension with Russia would be “very high on the agenda for an incoming administration.” * Incoming national security adviser Jake Sullivan previously called for Navalny's immediate release.The latest: Navalny was ordered to remain in pre-trial detention for 30 days. He was officially arrested for violating the conditions of a suspended prison term by missing an appointment in December.Worth noting: Blinken praised Sen. Mitt Romney, who serves on the committee, for being “prescient” on Russia. Romney was mocked for referring to Russia as America’s “number one geopolitical foe” in a 2012 presidential debate with Barack Obama, including by Obama himself.Go deeper: Bill Browder on Russia-U.S. relations after Alexei Navalny's arrestGet smarter, faster with the news CEOs, entrepreneurs and top politicians read. Sign up for Axios Newsletters here.
- NBC News
Court documents recounted the man's telling his children that he would consider them "traitors" if they contacted authorities.
- National Review
President-elect Joe Biden has chosen Pennsylvania Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine to be his assistant secretary of health, setting her up to become the first openly transgender federal official to be confirmed by the Senate. Levine, a pediatrician and former Pennsylvania physician general, will serve as the top deputy to Health and Human Services Secretary-designee Xavier Becerra. “Dr. Rachel Levine will bring the steady leadership and essential expertise we need to get people through this pandemic — no matter their zip code, race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability — and meet the public health needs of our country in this critical moment and beyond,” Biden said in a press release. “She is a historic and deeply qualified choice to help lead our administration’s health efforts.” Vice President-elect Kamala Harris said that Levine is “a remarkable public servant with the knowledge and experience to help us contain this pandemic, and protect and improve the health and well-being of the American people.” Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf, a Democrat, appointed Levine to her current position in 2017. She was confirmed by the Republican-majority Pennsylvania Senate for her roles as health secretary and physician general. Levine, a graduate of Harvard University and Tulane University School of Medicine, has become the public face of the state’s coronavirus pandemic response. She faced calls to resign from her post last spring after reports that she had removed her 95-year-old mother from her personal care home after ordering all nursing homes and long-term facilities in the state to accept coronavirus patients from hospitals, despite concerns about older people’s vulnerability to the virus. She defended the decision, saying her mother who is “more than competent to make her own decisions” had requested the move.
- The Week
Anthony Scaramucci was right: The White House appears to be having trouble rounding up a sizable crowd for President Trump's official send-off from Joint Base Andrews in Maryland on Wednesday."In what looks like a desperate attempt to build a crowd for the crowd-obsessed president, an email has been making the rounds to current and former White House officials inviting them, and as many as five plus-ones, to Trump's elaborate exit ceremony," Politico reported Tuesday morning. "The go-to excuse for skipping out has been the 6 a.m. call time at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland. But truly, many just don't want to be photographed sending off their former boss."Trump's current staffers have a good reason to avoid their outgoing boss. "Former White House officials and campaign staffers who would typically land plum jobs in corporate America after serving their time are now out in the cold," Politico says. One former White House official who got out early put it this way: "No one wants to touch them, they're just toxic." Another former Trump aide, pointing to the fallout from the Jan. 6 insurrection, was more blunt, telling Politico: "They're f---ed."Trump will be the first president since Andrew Johnson, another member of the tiny impeached president club, to skip the inauguration of his successor. "Johnson snubbed Ulysses S. Grant in 1869," The Washington Post notes. More stories from theweek.com 5 more scathing cartoons about Trump's 2nd impeachment Trump issues last-minute order attempting to free his appointees from ethics commitments Lindsey Graham seemed very pleased with Biden's secretary of state nominee
Inauguration Day is a time of great expectancy and transformation. There are reports of at least 12 National Guard members being removed from the inauguration patrol duties. There are 25,000 troops in D.C. to protect attendees at the inauguration after the deadly and unprecedented Jan. 6 Capitol Hill insurrection.
- Architectural Digest
Mercedes-Benz’s Hyperscreen, General Motors’ Bright Drop, and Jeep’s Electric Wrangler were among the unveils that turned headsOriginally Appeared on Architectural Digest
Thailand's government on Wednesday filed a criminal complaint of defaming the monarchy against a banned opposition politician after he criticised the country's COVID-19 vaccine strategy. The move could mark the highest-profile lese majeste case since a wave of anti-government protests emerged last year and extended to criticism of King Maha Vajiralongkorn over accusations of meddling in politics and taking too much power. The complaint against Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit under Article 112 of the criminal code came two days after he said the government was too reliant on a company owned by the Crown Property Bureau, which is under the king's personal control, to produce vaccines for Thais.
- Associated Press
A California sheriff’s deputy was killed and another deputy was wounded in a shootout with a suspect who gunned down a K-9 dog before he was fatally shot, authorities said. The gunbattle erupted in Sacramento near a racetrack at the Cal Expo event venue after a vehicle pursuit late Monday, Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones said. The deputy who died was identified as Adam Gibson, a six-year veteran of the department, Jones said.
- The Independent
Ivanka praises her own work in farewell message as bitter Don Jr compares Biden to Disney’s Uncle Scar
First daughter may now eye own run for elected office
- The Week
Constitutionally-speaking, Chief Justice John Roberts is meant to preside over President Trump's impeachment trial, but he apparently wants out, Politico reports.Multiple Republican and Democratic sources have reportedly told Politico that Roberts is seeking a way to avoid the job because of how things played out when he oversaw Trump's first impeachment trial last year. Roberts, Politico notes, has worked hard to keep the Supreme Court apolitical during his tenure, so he was reportedly displeased that he "became a top target of the left" during the proceedings. "He wants no further part of this," one source told Politico, although there's been no official word from Roberts' camp about what he'll ultimately do.Trump's trial is a bit of a constitutional oddity. On the one hand, it's a presidential impeachment, but on the other hand, the trial will take place after he leaves office, which is why there's a chance Roberts may have some wiggle room. Historically, either the vice president or the longest-serving member of the Senate have taken up the mantle for lower-level impeachments, per Politico. That means Vice President-elect Kamala Harris or Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) could be the choice. Read more at Politico.More stories from theweek.com 5 more scathing cartoons about Trump's 2nd impeachment Trump issues last-minute order attempting to free his appointees from ethics commitments Lindsey Graham seemed very pleased with Biden's secretary of state nominee
A Japanese politician from the Liberal Democratic Party is spearheading the push for a bill that would give workers a three-day weekend without affecting job security. About the bill: House of Councilors member Kuniko Inoguchi, who represents a district of Chiba Prefecture, saw the potential to introduce the bill after the successful implementation of four-day workweeks by a few Japanese companies in the past, according to Sankei Shimbun via SoraNews24. “We have seen that Japan has a latent ability to create flexible work environments and workstyles,” the politician said.
- WPVI – Philadelphia
Joe Biden is set to become the 46th President of the United States, but the path to the Oval Office for Delaware's native son was long and sometimes very painful.
- LA Times
Thousands of pro-Trump crowds have gathered since he took office. No state has had more than California
Despite its reputation as a leader of resistance, California saw more pro-Trump crowds than any other state during the president's term in office.
- Associated Press
Already facing allegations of stealing more than $600,000 in federal funds from a health care school she directed, a Tennessee state senator has been charged in a new fraud case, the U.S. attorney’s office in Memphis said Tuesday. Democrat Katrina Robinson and two other people have been charged in a complaint with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and money laundering, about six months after Robinson was indicted on federal charges that she used grant money earmarked for health care worker training to pay for her wedding and honeymoon, a Jeep Renegade for her daughter, her children’s snow cone business, and other things. In the case disclosed Tuesday, prosecutors said Brooke Boudreaux, an associate of Robinson, convinced someone to pay $14,470 in tuition to the school Robinson runs in Memphis on Boudreaux's behalf.
- National Review
Joe Biden has not yet been sworn in, but already, he is at war with American energy — which is to say, at war with American prosperity. Biden has promised to sabotage the Keystone XL pipeline, a privately financed, multi-billion-dollar project already under way, and “cancel it on his first day,” according to a briefing document cited by the BBC. The Keystone pipeline would, if it were allowed to, carry crude from the oil sands of Alberta to Nebraska, where the pipeline would link up with the existing distribution network to send that oil on to refineries in the Gulf of Mexico. This would benefit Canadian producers and their investors, American refineries and their large, excellently paid work forces — those good, high-paying, blue-collar jobs Biden talks about — and, most important, American consumers, who would have access to yet another source of fuel at attractive prices from a nearby friendly country. This sort of thing is the point of international economic cooperation. The notional case against Keystone is environmental in the main part, and in the lesser part an issue of Indian lands and rights. The environmental case is unsound: Canada has ratified the Paris agreement and takes environmental issues relatively seriously. Innovation and technological improvements have substantially reduced the greenhouse-gas emissions associated with Canadian tar-sands productions — by 30 percent since the 1990s, as the Canadian government calculates. Of course, it matters relatively little whether a gallon of gasoline in the tank of a Cadillac Escalade in Houston is refined from Canadian tar-sands oil or from West Texas oil — the relevant emissions come overwhelmingly from the point of combustion. Of course there are environmental challenges associated with the oil sands, as there are with any usable source of energy, including wind and solar. These are regulatory and practical challenges that are perfectly manageable. (Which is not the same thing as a guarantee that U.S. or Canadian authorities, or businesses, will manage them perfectly — that kind of oversight is hard work and a serious business.) The same is true of “fracking” and other petroleum-extraction practices. There are many reasonable ways to manage tradeoffs between economic development and environmental priorities — if environmentalists were interested in reasonable tradeoffs, which they aren’t. Biden, already looking over his shoulder at a restive progressive caucus, apparently intends to buy environmentalists off with other people’s money. Why? Fossil fuels, far from being the great villain of the climate story, have been the main source of greenhouse-gas reductions in the United States over the past several decades, as relatively clean-burning natural gas displaces relatively dirty coal in electricity generation. But that is not the kind of intelligent tradeoff that interests American environmentalists, who are moralists and romantics and committed to the notion that hydrocarbon fuels are, simply, evil — and that they must be fought on every front. Hence, the American Left’s comprehensive and total war on any and all infrastructure associated with our most abundant energy sources — not only oil pipelines but natural-gas pipelines, too, along with rail-shipping facilities, refineries and other plants, and West Coast export depots intended to help U.S. producers in Asian markets. If it produces, consumes, moves, or processes oil or gas, the American Left opposes it. If Joe Biden is interested in improving the employment and wage outlook for middle-class Americans, he ought not make our industrial, chemical, manufacturing, transportation, and electricity sectors hostage to the narrow-minded concerns of a small group of fanatics. There is a worrying Hayekian lesson in this, too: It is impossible for American businesses to make big, long-term investments in a political environment in which every project is up for renegotiation — or summary economic execution — every time the White House changes hands. Why invest in building and moving physical goods, and taking on the political risk that goes along with such investments, when you could join the booming financial sector and put your money into the money business? This is not to sniff at finance or other work in the service economy, but, surely, in a continental nation as vast as ours, with an economy as complex as ours, it shouldn’t be possible for one man serving a short term in a temporary elected office to undo years of work and billions of dollars in investment. This is pure foolishness, and it will cost us. Joe Biden is getting ready to get off to a poor start. And if he thinks that he can buy off the green lobby by sacrificing Keystone, he is mistaken. Their ambitions are bigger and broader than that, and they will not be easily satisfied: L’appétit vient en mangeant. If you were wondering who actually has Joe Biden’s ear, now you know.